Friday, March 26, 2021

A New Option for Shortening Microsoft Forms Links

It has always been possible to shorten long Microsoft Forms URLS with third-party services like Bitly and Yellkey. Recently, Microsoft added a built-in URL shortener to Microsoft Forms. This option now appears when you click on the share button in Microsoft Forms. Check the small box that reads "shorten URL" and you'll have a shortened URL to share. 

While the shortened URLs that Microsoft Forms provides are shorter than the default URLs for Forms, they're still fairly long URLs that aren't exactly memorable. To create shortened URLs that people can actually remember and spell you'll want to use the custom URL shortening provided by services like Bitly, TinyURL, or Yellkey. All three of those URL shortening services are demonstrated in this short video



On a related note, now that we're getting closer to the end of the school year you might be thinking about end-of-year surveys for students and parents. Here's how to use Microsoft Forms to create a survey

Thursday, March 25, 2021

A Quick Tip for Categorizing Gmail Messages

The default inbox arrangement in Gmail consists of a Primary tab, a Social tab, and a Promotions tab. Gmail generally does a pretty good job of accurately sorting messages into those tabs. There are some occasions when messages that should appear in the Primary tab appear in Promotions and times when messages that should be in the Promotions tab land in the Primary tab. Fortunately, there is an easy way to remedy that problem. 

You can move messages from one Gmail tab to another by just clicking on the subject line of a message and then dragging it to the tab that you want it to be in. When you do that you'll see a small pop-up message asking if you want to have all future emails from that sender appear in tab to which you just moved the message. Watch this short video to see how this process works. 



Applications for Education
While rare, there are times when a message from a teacher to a student or student to a teacher lands in the wrong tab. Dragging the message back to the proper tab can help prevent that from happening again. Then the challenge is to get students to actually open their inboxes!

Free Webinar on April Fools' Day

Every other week Rushton Hurley from Next Vista for Learning and I host a free webinar called Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. The next one is next Thursday which happens to be April Fools' Day. 

As the title implies, during each webinar we answer questions from anyone who attends as well as questions that have been sent to us in advance. You can email me or Rushton with your questions. In each episode we also share a couple of interesting apps, websites, or videos that we've found during the last couple of weeks.

Watch one of the recent episodes to get a sense of the webinars are all about. Register for next week's webinar right here

And on a related note, PBS Learning Media offers this short video explanation of April Fool's Day

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Forky - A Simple Mind Mapping Tool

I've tried dozens, possibly more than one hundred, mind mapping and flowchart creation tools over the last thirteen+ years of writing this blog. In fact, my first published writing was as a co-author of a chapter about mind mapping in the book What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media. I tell you that to say I've seen a lot of mind mapping tools. Of those, the best ones are usually the simplest ones. Forky is a new mind mapping tool that fits into the category of simple but effective. 

Forky is a free mind mapping tool that focuses on just connecting text boxes. As you'll see in this video, all that you have to do to make a mind map with Forky is to double-click on the screen then start typing in the text box that appears when you double-click. To add a new connected idea just hit the tab key on your keyboard and a new text box appears for you to type in. If you want to create a new text box that isn't connected to a previous one, just double-click somewhere else on your screen. You can make connections between boxes after they're written by simply holding the shift key while clicking on one box then another. 

Forky doesn't include support for inserting images, video, or any other media. It's just for writing a series of connected ideas. You can invite other people to view your Forky mind maps via email. 




Applications for Education

Mind mapping tools like Forky can be helpful to students when they are planning a creative story that has a few storylines in it. Forky's option to invite a collaborator could be used by students to invite their teachers to review their mind maps and provide some feedback.

5 Ideas for Using Threadit in School

This is an excerpt of my full article that I published on my other site, Practical Ed Tech

Threadit is Google's new tool for recording webcam and screencast videos. The best way to think of it is as "Google Docs meets Flipgrid." Here's my preliminary list of five ways to use it in school. 

  • Group Video Presentations
  • Asynchronous Video Discussions
  • Segmented Tutorial Videos
  • Asynchronous Video Office Hours
  • "Feel Good" Group Messages
Details on all five of those ideas can be read here on Practical Ed Tech

My complete video overview of Threadit can be seen here on my YouTube channel or as embedded below.